This Airbnb is Chic in Hudson County

The North Bergen loft, a two-story, light-filled condo with its own parking, is convenient to shopping, a gym, and most importantly, a shuttle bus to Manhattan.

The space sleeps four comfortably, but he keeps an air mattress handy for extra guests.
He supplies guests with essentials like paper towels and water bottles, along with some perks like a first-aid kit.
Photo by John Bessler

John Vasquez was managing a successful restaurant in Manhattan when he purchased a spacious, two-story loft in North Bergen near the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel in 2006. Often working long and late, he was rarely home more than a few hours each night. Four years ago, he decided to give Airbnb a try.

To get started, Vasquez purchased a queen-size bed and placed it in the living room; he slept in the open loft on the second level. Then, he listed the space on Airbnb as a share—meaning he’d be staying there with his guests. It took about two months until he got his first bite: a young woman who had just broken up with her boyfriend and needed a place to stay.

“She stayed two weeks and talked all night,” Vasquez says. “I couldn’t take it. The share was not for me.”

As soon as his first guest departed, Vasquez switched to being an absent host, staying at friends’ homes when his place was booked. It took a while to catch on. “The competition is crazy,” he says. “Everyone is looking at the ratings.” To maximize bookings and raise his ratings, Vasquez negotiated prices with guests below the average for his area. One review led to another, and before long, he was nearly fully booked, often with repeat visitors. “I have a three-night minimum, but lately I’ve been getting four to six nights,” he says. Rates fluctuate; during one recent week, the apartment was listed for $149 a night.

As his bookings increased, Vasquez fully committed to the business and spent about $2,800 on new furnishings, sheets, towels and cleaning supplies. He hired a cleaning service to be on call, and another as a backup. He also found a maintenance guy close by in case of an emergency. “You work out the kinks over time,” he says.

Vasquez’s loft, a two-story, light-filled condo with its own parking, is convenient to shopping, a gym, and most importantly, a shuttle bus to Manhattan. Many of his guests are international visitors. “A couple from Australia left yesterday,” he says, “and a couple from Germany check in tomorrow.”

Vasquez leaves personal items in plain view, including his collection of autographed basketballs and footballs. “I leave a couple things around so the guests can appreciate how I live,” he says. “They get to know me just a little.” He doesn’t worry about theft. “You have to trust at some level. Plus, you know who they are and you have their deposit.”

Vasquez left the restaurant business and relocated to Florida two years ago, where he’s now a brand manager for a liquor company. He never thought about selling his New Jersey place. “It pays for itself and then some,” he says. “For me, the whole hospitality thing is intertwined.”

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